Revelations and Back to Basics

Over the last couple of days I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and a lot of reflecting about where I currently am as a writer, what was important to me when I started writing and what I want to do from here out.

Two things occurred to me:

  1. I wasn’t writing, and
  2. I wasn’t happy about that fact.

It was a bit like going off on a safari full of enthusiasm for the thrill and adventure, then getting lost, only to discover you are going around and around in circles, and really just wanted to go home.

Small signs started to appear this week to confirm I was lost (because there is nothing like denying and making excuses to legitimise the fact you are not writing).

There had been niggling jealousy and envy of those around me who continue to produce. There was the contemplation of how my lovely friend (and talented writer) Em Newman manages to fit the demands of family, work and writing. There was a throw away piece of advice (from me) in a virtual interview a few weeks ago saying, you had to make writing a priority and then that very line being picked up by the fabulous Jen Brubacher (who continues to read and comment here although there’s not much to read or comment on, or the fact I’ve become an infrequent reader at her blog). There was a tweet from one of my followers with reference to why we can’t treat ourselves like clients (ie. bend over backwards to get it done, stop the world type of behaviour we flick into when we’re working on someone else’s project) Then there was Tony Noland’s wonderful essay earlier this week “Rule #1 – You Must Write” – which was like the nail in the coffin of the self delusion.

You must write.

I must write.

And I decided I didn’t want to be lost, stuck out in the wilderness, on the fringe any more. I wanted to go home.

But where is ‘home’ for me as a writer?

Home is what I was doing when I first decided I wanted to write seriously. It was the foundation from which all other great things were built on (Reclaim Sex After Birth, Chinese Whisperings and eMergent Publishing)

There were four things which were the cornerstone of those early times:

  1. I wrote [Fiction] Friday every week – usually as part of my Friday night ritual. It was getting blood on the page, it got me connected in with my foundation group of writing friends (many of which have continued on the journey with me in new and innovative ways), it got my writing out there – read and critiqued. But more so, it gave me insight into how my writing worked… that I needed a prompt to get and keep writing.
  2. I wrote Captain Juan and was always itching for the next person to write so I could have my go again. It was my ‘writer’s candy’ or ‘comfort writing’… despite whatever else was going on… there was always Captain Juan.
  3. I blogged – almost every day and my blog was a lifeline to other writers who were also on the journey. It challenged me, supported me and spurred me onto greater heights. It was what got me connect in, before there was Facebook and Twitter.
  4. I made reading a priority for the first time in my life.

Three years on I find weekly writing has slipped to something which is a ‘treat’ every now and again, when the time opens up (rather than opening up the time to write). I think I have written one new episode of Captain Juan (the Christmas special) in the past year and every day there is a dull ache, like an amputated limb. Blogging? What blogging? Unless there is some new piece of writing to put up (see back to the start of this paragraph) the blog lies idle and forgotten. My connection to the rest of my writerly folk is now made through Facebook and Twitter, which quite frankly, while convenient is just not the same soul food of connection or insight. And reading… well it is still there, though has been teetering lately into falling the way everything else has gone.

This month, as I was setting my goals, I developed a theme for the month, ‘Back to Basics’. I want to go back to what was important and what kept me nourished when I first started out.

This month writing will be a priority.

And the other little piece of wisdom which came to me this week. Life isn’t a balancing act – so let’s can the image of scales, or tightropes, of seesaws and the likes. It is not about balancing at all.

Life is a jigsaw and it is about the investment in making the pieces fit. Sometimes they pieces fit easily – especially when they’re very different… but when you’ve got 100 pieces of blue sky.. the task takes on new meaning. And when your work is editing and publishing and writing… the ability to make them all fit, because they look so similar, can be a greater challenge. It is easier to take the pieces which belong to others and make them a priority to have fitted into the bigger picture and leave your pieces behind.

But no one ends up being happy – least of you all, when you relegate yourself to the poor third cousin.

So over the next month – expect more blogging and a new look blog, more fiction and some exciting news about Captain Juan.

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27 thoughts on “Revelations and Back to Basics

  1. Jodi, it scares me how you and I are so much alike. It was as if you read my mind. I’ve put things in motion that will allow me much more time to be creative both in my writing and my art, which is something I’ve neglected far too long. Over the next few days I’m tying up some loose ends and come Sunday I’m making creativity a priority. I’ll be blogging more than once a week, writing and creating a tangible piece of art in the workshop each week. Now you’ve got me thinking I should redesign my blog too.
    Thanks for your continued inspiration, because whether you know it or not you inspire me to do great things.

    • Chris, I picked up your comment as Annie and I were pulling up at the movies this morning. And she will attest to this -but I was all teared up reading your comment. Perhaps it is the Sagg synergy. I was going to tag you in the link on FB, thinking perhaps it was a bit ‘wrong’ of me to purport to know what you might be thinking/considering/feeling… but decided to do so anyway.

      I didn’t know I was an inspiration (what sort of big headed ego-maniac would dare to think such a thing?) but I am glad there is something there to give you a propr forwards.

      I’ll make you a deal – you blog and I’ll blog… and I will definitely stop in and read. And looking forward to seeing some of your artwork. I’m always envious of all these talented folk around me who not only write but create in other mediums as well.

      Onwards and upwards from here…

      And PS: there is secret squirrel business to share with you in a few days time. Just haven’t got the details sorted yet! But I know you will certainly be up for it!!!

    • I hope you get back to them Rob… come play in [Fiction] Friday fields again. It would be so very cool for the old crowd to be back there again. Surely the Toothfairy needs to come out and play again?

  2. Jodi, I didn’t realize that you were quite so becalmed. I’m pleased and grateful to the forces of the universe that brought my bloggish thoughts out for you at a time when they were what you needed to hear. It’s a humbling thing for me to have been a catalyst for you.

    You know what a catalyst does, right? It facilitates a chemical reaction that would have eventually taken place on its own.

    Good for you, Jodi. Enjoy the writing!

  3. Tony, becalmed is such a lyrical way of putting it (and I’m filing it away for a blog post in the near future – which I will of course refer to you in!)

    The problem was, I could see there was an issue but didn’t feel I could do anything about it. I have editing and publishing demands on my time… but hell… so do all my other writing friends who have jobs outside of their writing. I’m never going to give up editing or publishing, but at the same time it isn’t the everything in the world, and it is certainly not writing at the end of the day.

    And thank you for reminding me of the catalyst. You always have the right metaphor to use. As Aries rising, I’m a bit impatient at the best of times… so there tend to be more explosive type catalysts, than the slow burn variety.

    Now… if only you’d admit you’d made landfall and were trekking to explore the interior…

      • You and Em should hang out a bit… she’s just written a great post about ‘the rutter’ (like a ships log for a ship’s pilot). All these nautical inferences and such.

        As long as you know we think you’re well on the way to ‘making it’ and that we all appreciate and enjoy your talent. And if we’re all adrift together – hell, I’m very glad I ended up on this raft!!

  4. Glad you are feeling less lost, Jodi. Sounds like you have some interesting stuff to share soon. As you say, clearing the decks and focusing on the basics is sometimes what is needed. And while I understand that the editing side of things is not the writing nourishment you need, your efforts in that arena are always gratefully received by those of us who have benefited from them and perhaps we don’t tell you that enough. I can honestly say that without your clear eyes and clinical editing scalpel, Soiled would have been a poorer story.

    I am looking forward to reading whatever you write with the time you open up and to the mysterious developments you hint at in the post. If I can return the editing favours, don’t hesitate to ask.

    • Perhaps I have been a bit harsh on the editing side of things.Dan… because I know editing nourishes my writing (when the ratio is kept in check) and I feel very, very, very blessed to be surrounded by so many talented writers (such as yourself) who also double as insightful and talented editors/beta readers/critics.

      And I do know my editing efforts are appreciated, because as a writer I know how much I value the input of good folk like yourself – who ‘get’ the blue sky jigsaw pieces and help to put them together… or was that the long stretch of immaculate green lawn? Can I just say though – I’m forever scarred by “Soiled” and it was a brilliant story before you let me get my hands on it.

      I think, having thought further on all of this today, and had lunch with Annie – I still haven’t adjusted to the huge shift in my life which Dylan going to school has been. As someone who is about to have a great shift in their life – I’m sure you know what I mean. My entire routine has been tipped on its face and unlike the time I thought would open, it feels like it has closed in on me with the end of the very late nights and the sleep ins.

      Knowing there are people out there looking foward to reading some of my writing, is a good incentive to hit the page. Just need to get some of the creative mojo back and also, confidence in my abilities (who would have though I’d lose confidence just after a few short months!)

      And on the subject of baby steps… I think if I were in cohoots with someone, I might finally commit this novel to the page and stop finding excuses. After all, you got me back on the short story bandwagon again (and that’s an entire new blog post in itself!)

      • I’m well up for the babysteps thing. I have started my novel, as I writing the opening for my last OU assignment. Being in cahoots would certainly keep me going with it. I’ll only be 4,000 words in when the assigment is done.

        I know the change of routine can take a while to get used to. I am only now finding my balance since Aaron left nursery and started at FS1 (early years school here). Just in time for Baby 3 to come along and make me rewire my day. It can take a while to even out but I am sure you will get there.

        As for the short story challenge – really enjoying it. I have decided to post thoughts on collections rather than daily as it was overwhleming the blog a bit. Plus it kind of makes each post a writer’s review of short fiction collections – what I have gained from them, what they can offer. Reading Carver’s ‘What we talk about when we talk about love,’ alongside the original drafts of the stories in ‘Beginners.’ Very interesting to compare the stories before Lish got hold of them with afterwards.

    • Thumbs up Ben! I think there is a blog post in that subject alone. More blogging and less Twitter and Facebook.

      Putting this up has just amazed me – the comments which have come in (and I am sure will continue to come in). The engagement I remember there being, is still here… and I have the joy of engaging in this space with a whole new set of writer friends who I have bonded with during the blogging lull.

      Bring on the blogging I say… I’m certainly re-inspired.

      And thanks to you Ben… you’ve kept me inspired and on-track with the goal settting and projecting what I want to achieve.

      • I really do look forward to more posts from you. Perhaps on the blogging debate? I should post some links to other blog posts in the debate too.

        Thanks Jodi. I’m glad the goal setting has helped others. It really helps me. I’ve submitted more stuff more than ever this year and it’s only April.

  5. Yes! I’m very glad to hear this, Jodi. I’d noticed a difference even since we first began chatting late last year. Of course I understand the worthiness of all you do, but you deserve better for all you want to accomplish, and what makes you happy. I wish you the very best for getting back to this direction.

    • Thanks Jen. I miss the impetus of Fourth Fiction deadlines for getting writing done.

      I am determined to get the novella finished this month and let it sit for a few months (I guess though, it has already been in motion for several more months than it needed to be.)

      So much writing to do, so many adventures to have and so many readers to wow… And here was me wondering how I could make this the year of ‘adventure.’

      The blog award you gave me at the start of the year I will finally honour here… hopefully in the next day or so.

      • Funny you should mention the Fourth Fiction novella. I printed out what I have of mine so far yesterday and was musing this morning about whether to complete it with the challenges, or just complete it. Probably going to just complete it. I also need to go back and catch up reading what I have missed of yours. Having said that, it would be lovely to have the finished novella to read. How’s that for incentive to finish?

      • Dan consider it a pact to finish both our novellas – and we can do a weird duo marketing thingo. Put then in the same ‘book’ – two novellas for the price of one?? Even though they are very different.

        You’re one stop ahead of me.

        I’m yet to print mine out.

  6. I so hope you get more writing done in the future! Sometimes people lose what’s good for them because there’s always something different that *needs* to be done – and forget what *they* need.

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  8. Yes, hurry up and write some more 🙂

    So many ideas, so little friggin’ time. I am all wrung out with my research thesis. And I haven’t even started the research yet.

    I just keep soldiering on, knowing that while I wish I could spend more time writing, there’s always next year. For you, it’s this month.

    I guess you have to stop having good ideas and start writing! Or, like you say, find the balance.

    And didn’t you hit a nerve with this post?

  9. Well, I just found your lovely post through Twitter.

    This really speaks to me. I just started my fiction blog about a month ago. I’ve had some lovely, helpful, supportive input which has meant the world to me. I started finding people who “get it” on Twitter, which has been a lifeline. But I’m still tiptoeing around my blog, amazed at what has happened in a mere month, wondering how to make it better, where to take it from here.

    Then Tony’s Friday Flash post, Emma’s Rutter log, and now your excellent Back to Basics post arrive with a roadmap. I feel very lucky right now.

    Just wanted to say thanks. This has made some very good sense to me in terms of basic operating procedures. 🙂

  10. Interesting. I had noticed that I was blogging less, given Facebook and Twitter. I had noticed it in one or two other places also. But it took your post, Jodi, to cause me to reflect on it and really see it.

    Thank you for that.

    Writing exercises the writing muscles. I recall my father (who wrote) suggesting that writers maintain blogs because the act of writing helps one to write (a tautology, to be sure, but none the less true for that). And why is it that we writers need to be reminded that writing is about…writing? 🙂

    I wish you well in achieving your goals. I need to get back to #Fridayflash with the consistency I had last year. And I need to send out that which I have written – yet another of the rules Tony quoted earlier this week.

    Again, thank you for your post. It is quite timely.

    Enjoy your return to abundant creativity. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the right time for it.

  11. Lovely post Jodi, I hope you’ll get back to your writing and achieve the balance you need to be happy in every aspect of life.
    I’m sure it will be hard at times, it’s hard for me too, but doing our best is all anyone can do, right? 🙂

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